how to form a real team

“One of the problems some teams have is the assumption
they are a team… when they aren’t.”
Mark Miller

IMG_1068I am just home from a 10 day trip to Panama City, Panama. I was part of a Latin America area-wide conference for both Leadership Development/Human Resources (LDHR) and Operations personnel in my organization. It was a historic meeting; we’ve never had that many country representatives for those positions… and we’ve never held a meeting together to emphasize how important partnership is in our work.

I loved the opportunity to mentor and coach the new LDHR leaders. It was thrilling to watch their vision and passion transform into deeper understanding and action steps. I believe there will be a lot of progress in how these important people care and develop the staff and volunteers in their respective countries.

I also enjoyed working with my Latin America Area Team to lead the event, teach the lessons, and consider future next steps. Since we are a virtual team – we all live in different countries and meet usually only by Skype – it was a treat to interact together. Before I left for the trip, I read an article about the difference between work groups and “real teams”. Some of my teammates put these principles of real teams in action while we were together.

Connect – “How are you doing?”

Some of my teammates showed true interest in me as a person. They asked questions about how was I doing, comments I made, and my personal life – not just our work. They encouraged me after I taught a session, and they gave sincere feedback about how to improve. They invited me to eat meals with them, to help with some of their tasks, and to give my opinion on projects. We were not just siloed individuals working alone on separate pieces of the job; we were interdependent, and I felt valued and cared for by my teammates who demonstrated this characteristic of “true teams”.

Deepen – “What do we need?”

In some of our conversations, we were talking about emotional, stressful, frustrating or challenging topics. Some of my teammates avoided or tabled the complex and conflicting issues, while others actually initiated the deeper conversations. I really appreciated it when my team mates challenged my attitudes or the way I was dealing with some of my feelings. “True team” members understand that differing perspectives and opinions are a benefit to teamwork, and so they face and resolve misunderstandings and conflict. My teammates built trust when they invested the time to look at the harder, deeper issues with me.

Dream – “Where are we going?”

Besides looking at personal and conflict issues, my “real team” members also took time to dream about the future together with me. Although we are aware of problems and lack of resources and man-power, we also knew that our work and our efforts meant we are making forward progress. I greatly valued the times when we talked about building a caring culture, learning from mistakes, changing old paradigms, and finding new hope. That kind of conversation makes me want to work as part of the “real team”.

Have you experienced working as a “true team”? What elements of “true team” are important to you?